Free time is a significant part of an adolescent’s life. It has been estimated that youth spend more time on leisure rather than productive activities: 20-30% and 45-55% correspondingly (Steinberg 222). A young person may choose to take up a part-time job, prioritize their time with various activities including mass media, or combine different options. The film Coach Carter illuminates the story of a school basketball team and their coach, Ken Carter. It is a perfect example of the influence that leisure activities and peers may have on young people. The sphere of work is not illustrated in the film. In relation to adolescent development, the theories of supervised and unsupervised leisure and mass media impact may be applied; apart from that, one should also pay attention to peer groups.
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The film is set in 1999 in America. Typical leisure patterns of those times correspond to the findings: the teenage characters spend the majority of their time on sports or hanging with friends.
One of the school-sponsored extracurricular activities, basketball not only induces pleasure for the team players but also becomes the purpose of their lives: “Basketball is the only thing that these boys have got” (Coach Carter). Theoretically, participating in structured leisure activities brings school performance improvement, reduces drug and alcohol use, and reduces delinquency (Steinberg 231). It is especially important for poorer and dysfunctional families.
Suppressed by the surroundings, both senior and junior students join the game because it is the only way to escape from the harsh reality where they fail academically and socially. Richmond expects to graduate less than a third of all students; in general, most of them are likely to follow in the footsteps of their relatives, be involved in crimes, and go to jail like Lyle’s father. Under such circumstances, the Richmond team has been saved by their coach.
Ken Carter establishes rules intended to discipline and prepare the students for college; the most crucial requirement is a 2.3 grade point average. His tough measures provoke an outcry, but the results are more than impressive (Coach Carter). Basketball raises the boys’ self-esteem and comforts them psychologically. The film proves that structured activities are equally good for successful and low-performing students: while Damien, Ken’s son, has always been studying at a high level and continues to do so, the Richmond students also make progress under Carter’s guidance.
Just as supervised activities are beneficial, the unstructured ones may cause much harm. If an adolescent is socially isolated and undertakes unsupervised activities, they may be involved in deviant behavior, drug and alcohol use, and so on (Steinberg 234). The film provides various examples. Timo Cruz’s actions corroborate this idea by a strong contrast between his past and present. The boy used to be a part of the criminal world because he quitted the team and started selling drugs.
When Timo is taken back to the basketball team, he becomes more responsible and adult. Another example of unsupervised activities consequences is unprotected sex and pregnancy. Kenyon and Kyra’s situation is tense: while Kenyon’s dream is to go to college and play basketball, he understands that he will have to support Kyra and their future child. Further, the whole Richmond team sneaks and comes to Susan’s house after the victory; she gives a party and invites her friends without her parents’ permission (Coach Carter). Thus, unstructured activities may sometimes be closely related to risk behavior and crimes.
As for mass media, the boys probably perceive them only as additional means of the basketball world, not a free time consumer. They eagerly read items of news about the team because they are flattering and follow the news when journalists criticize Carter’s decision to lock the gym. Television does not seem to be popular with the boys. In other words, it is a media practice model. The boys select what interests them and interpret the information in their own way: despite the public opinion, they support their coach.
Besides leisure and mass media issues, peer relationships are depicted in the film. In terms of similarity among persons within a group, selection and socialization are considered to contribute to adolescents’ behavior differently: in case of delinquent behaviors, selection, that is attraction based on initial similarity, is more powerful (Steinberg 172). However, the example of the basketball team demonstrates the opposite effect: owing to socialization in the form if his mates’ influence and assistance, Cruz has become less aggressive. The turning point is when the boys help Timo with exercises.
To sum it up, nowadays young people tend to spend their free time mainly on leisure activities. Sport plays a significant role for them. As it is demonstrated in the film Coach Carter, this type of structured activities actually helps students excel in their studies, bolsters self-esteem, and prevents delinquent behavior. Communication with peers may also become a vital aspect of adolescents’ lives. Unlikely as it may seem, mass media are not necessarily a priority for young people: they may choose what they want, interpret it in their own way, and act according to this perception.
Coach Carter. Dir. Thomas Carter. Los Angeles: Paramount, 2005. DVD.
Steinberg, Laurence D. Adolescence. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2010. Print.